Whose Progress? The Language of Global Health

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 31 (3):285-304 (2006)
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Abstract

The barrier to global health most often noted in Western discourse is the enduring disparity of access to medical technologies. This assessment of the circumstances in global health fits well within a bioethic centered on the equitable distribution of access to medical goods. Yet through an interrogative consideration of two episodes in the marketing of progress, namely the Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago (1933–1934) and one post-war spin on atomic development in the National Geographic, I suggest that the language of medical advancement continues to trade on a division between civilized, rational, scientifically developed peoples and the atavism of peoples by whom Western science gauges its progress. I recommend unremittingly self-critical attention to the dynamics of language and legitimization used within the Western academy by those who seek ostensibly to be of use in regions (powerfully) labeled as “developing.”

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